This weekend, Seth Putnam – ringleader of infamous shock-rock grindcore band Anal Cunt – passed away from an apparent heart attack. A few months ago, we planned to highlight the show they played at Siberia as our Live Pick of the week, but in the process of putting together our write-up, we got cold feet. As we allude to briefly in the original post, we had many concerns that our trying to give extra depth to the hate Putnam wantonly spewed by affording it the benefit of sociological and societal context may simply be giving him and the band too much credit. We were afraid we might be wrong.
When commenting on art in general and music specifically, it is nearly impossible (and not particularly important) to get everything completely correct. But getting stuff dead wrong sucks. And if our assumptions about Putnam’s motives for curating one of the most deplorable public personas was off by even a bit, we would have effectively been endorsing a circus of racism, homophobia and mysonogy.
If Putnam was in-character during his tenure with AxCx, it was a character he rarely broke: he blew lines of coke during interviews and was never afraid of getting caught using slurs and epitaphs, even when off-stage. For this reason, no one may ever know whether Seth Putnam was subversive or if he was just a shithead. The only thing we knew in the days before the AxCx show at Siberia is that we didn’t think he was worth going out on a limb for.
Here is the pertinent section from a post that would have originally been published on April 7, 2011 if we didn’t decide to shelve it. While we were ultimately uncomfortable using this post as a Live Picks spotlight, we ended up with a few paragraphs that – at the very least – make for an interesting examination of one of the most controversial bands that has ever existed:
04.09: Anal Cunt + Flesh Parade + Vulkodlak + Fat Stupid Ugly People – Siberia
If ever a band existed that could stand for the argument that metal and hardcore, as genres, have thoroughly overstayed their creative welcome, that band is unarguably Anal Cunt. This Newton, Massachusetts grindcore band, founded in 1988 by central member Seth Putnam, has spent the past two decades spitting out hundreds of horribly recorded, grossly offensive, generally unlistenable minute-long songs consisting of usually nothing more than indecipherable screaming, randomly pounding double bass drums, and extreme crunching guitars. Like fellow absurdist hard-edged artists Gwar, G.G. Allin and Jud Jud, Anal Cunt – with song titles like “Technology’s Gay”, “Women: Nature’s Punching Bag”, and “Ha Ha Holocaust” – have decidedly taken the strangest of routes in holding a scathing mirror to the American hardcore scene, which, by the late 1980s, had become overrun with misogynist meat heads, white supremacists, and musical formulists.
However, like most of the aforementioned bands, AxCx lead singer Seth Putnam tends to be relatively tight-lipped about the true motives regarding the graphically offensive nature of his music. Consequently, it’s been very easy to label the band as simply racist, misogynistic and homophobic, which could unfortunately only serve to perpetuate the trend towards a bigoted punk fanbase – a trend that people like Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye have been loudly opposed to for decades. On the other hand, Anal Cunt’s music, as intentionally abrasive and unbearably noisy as it is, may not be capable of perpetuating anything; rather, it could provide a living commentary on American social attitudes, bigotry, anti-intellectualism, and the aggressive music that, for over twenty years now, has been used by some to solidify them. However, that also may be giving a band like Anal Cunt too much credit.
Nevertheless, they are passing through New Orleans for a stop at Siberia after a lengthy hiatus – the result of a shaky lineup and Putnam’s drug overdose-induced coma – for a concert that could be the strangest, most absurd the city will see all year.